§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
Mr. Speaker, I have lately presented to the House two important petitions for the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. They were unanimously agreed to at numerously attended public meetings which were held last year in the northern, southern, and central districts of that island. Similar petitions have been presented to the other House of Parliament; and similar ones have been addressed to Her Majesty the Queen. The statements contained in these petitions were of so grave and serious a description, and rested upon such high and trustworthy authority, that I felt it my duty to move that these petitions, and all similar ones, which have been presented since the year 1838, should be printed, in order that I might bring their contents under the consideration of the House. I find that these petitions have been most numerously and respectably signed—for instance, by the Bishop of Tasmania, by the Archdeacon of Launceston and Hobart Town, by the majority of the clergy of the Church of England, of the ministers of the Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Independent denominations; the magistracy, the gentry, the merchants, tradesmen, mechanics, fathers and mothers of families; and in short by almost every one of note and respectability among the free colonists of Van Diemen's Land. All these petitioners allege "that accumulated and appalling evils—moral, political, and social—have resulted from transportation to Van Diemen's Land;" that the existence of such evils have been admitted to the fullest extent by Her Majesty's Ministers, and the free colonists of Van Diemen's Land have repeatedly petitioned the Queen and Parliament that transportation to their colony should be discontinued for ever. Every one of these petitioners assert that on the 20th of July, 1847, their Governor, Sir William Denison, did announce, in the name of Her Majesty's Government, to the Legislative Council of Van Diemen's Land, that the wishes of the colonists were to be complied with, and transportation was to be abolished. They also state, that notwithstanding this announcement, transportation has been continued up to the present moment; and the Bishop, the clergy, and all the free colonists of Tasmania, declare that—"the non-fulfilment of this promise is a breach of faith, derogatory to the honour of the British 1169 nation, and calculated to weaken, if not to destroy, the feelings of confidence and attachment which Van Diemen's Land has hitherto entertained towards the Imperial Government.They solemnly protest against this breach of faith. They indignantly contradict a statement, said to have been made last year by a noble Earl in another place, to the effect, that they had become less averse to transportation than they were in 1846. They assure the House that they are still utterly hostile to the reception of convicts under any system. They, therefore, claim the fulfilment of the imperial promise, and pray the House to enforce the performance of that promise as speedily as possible. They have also addressed Her Majesty for the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. The free labourers and mechanics complain that the labour market has been overstocked with convicts; that, in consequence thereof, thousands of free labourers have been compelled to emigrate; that, if transportation continue, the remainder will follow, till the island become one huge den of thieves and felons. The fathers and mothers of Van Diemen's Land pray Her Majesty, as the mother of many children, to save their children from the horrid corruption and unutterable pollution to which they are exposed from being surrounded with convicts. And, lastly, the Bishop and clergy of the Church of England—"respectfully pray, on their own behalf, and on behalf of those for whom they are placed in charge, that Her Majesty will be pleased to rescind the Order in Council by which Van Diemen's Land is appointed a place to which criminals may be transported.With the permission of the House I will state, as briefly as I can, the grounds upon which the petitioners have made the allegations which I have just mentioned, and the reasons which induce me to ask the House to address Her Majesty on behalf of our fellow-citizens in Van Diemen's Land. The House is aware that under the Transportation Act the Secretary of State for the Colonies can only transport convicts to those Colonies which the Queen in Council has appointed to be places to which offenders under sentence of transportation should be conveyed. Therefore, if the Queen were to rescind the Order in Council by which Van Diemen's Land is appointed a penal colony, transportation to that colony would immediately cease. Van Diemen's Land was first appointed a penal colony, as a dependency of New South 1170 Wales, from which it was settled in 1803; secondly, as a colony distinct from New South Wales, from which it was separated in 1825 in virtue of an Order in Council dated June 23, 1824. In the thirteen subsequent years 21,300 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land, or about 1,600 a year, of whom six-sevenths were men. I find that in the year 1847 the population of Van Diemen's Land consisted of 42,000 persons, of whom about 25,000 were free, and 17,600 were bond; of the free three-fifths, and of the bond eight-ninths, were men. In the same year a Committee of this House was appointed to inquire into the efficacy of transportation as a punishment, and its effect upon the moral state of the penal colonies. The late Sir Robert Peel, the noble Lord the Prime Minister (Lord John Russell), the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Earl Grey), the Under Secretary (Mr. Hawes), the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of the Home Department (Sir George Grey), &c., were members of that Committee. They reported at the end of the Session of 1838. They agreed that the assemblage of a large number of convicts in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, and the disproportion between the sexes in those colonies, had produced, and were certain to produce (to use the words of the Bishop and clergy of Tasmania), complicated and appalling evils, moral and social, which outweighed beyond calculation the lucrative advantages from convict labour to the penal colonies. They therefore recommended that transportation to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land should be discontinued as soon as possible. On the 5th of May, 1840, I took the liberty, as Chairman of that Committee, to bring its recommendations under the consideration of the House; and on the 22nd of the same month an Order in Council was issued, revoking the Order in Council by which New South Wales had been appointed a penal colony. For this great boon New South Wales was indebted to the noble Lord the Prime Minister, and who, I believe, was the most enlightened, liberal, and popular Secretary of State who ever governed the colonies. Unfortunately the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was succeeded by Lord Stanley in 1841. Lord Stanley utterly disregarded every one of the recommendations of the Transportation Committee with regard to Van Diemen's Land. To that colony, previously overcrowded with convicts, the 1171 noble Lord transported annually twice as I many convicts as had been transported to it in any previous year; and he subjected more convicts to a system of punishment, namely, the gang system, which the Transportation Committee had especially condemned as the worst form of transportation. On the average of the three years before Lord Stanley came into office, the number of convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land amounted to about 1,680 a year; on the average of the five years that Lord Stanley was Secretary of State for the Colonies, the number of convicts annually transported to that colony was 4,200; therefore, in those five years, 21,000 convicts were added to the criminal population of Van Diemen's Land. It is calculated that in consequence of this influx of convicts, and the consequent overstocking of the labour market, 12,000 free presons were driven out of the colony in the interval between 1841 and 1848. I find on comparing the census of the 31st of December, 1842, with that of 1847, that in that interval the criminal population, including the convicts who had become free, had increased much more rapidly than the non-convict population had increased by births and immigration; that in 1847, of the whole population of the colony above the age of 14, more than two-thirds had been transported; that of the non-convicted portion of the population, one-half were under the age of 14; and that of the criminal population, only 1–6th were women. The consequences of this congregation of convicts, and disproportion of sexes, were even worse than the Transportation Committee had anticipated. For some time the Colonial Office, ignorant and ill-informed, gave implicit credit to the statement of an ignorant, incompetent, and careless Governor, who sent home the most flattering accounts of the state of Van Diemen's Land—the complete success of Lord Stanley's system of transportation. In December, 1845, Lord Stanley left office. His successor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), did not place the same implicit faith in the statements of the Governor of Van Diemen's Land. An inquiry was instituted into the state of that colony. The most appalling discoveries were made. It was found that the chain gangs and probation parties were, to use the words of Sir James Stephens, "nothing else than schools of advanced depravity, by which every remaining trait of 1172 virtuous habit or sentiment was effaced from the mind of the convict." It was discovered that very many of these convicts were suffering from hideous diseases produced by unmentionable crimes, which, according to the statement transmitted by the Bishop of Tasmania from his clergy, "were committed to a dreadful extent throughout the diocese." And several cases came to light in which female infants of the tenderest years were brutally and unnaturally violated by ticket-of-leave convicts. In short, Van Diemen's Land was a loathsome ulcer on the body of the British Empire, and a foul reproach to this country. It was felt to be so, both here and in the colony. About January, 1846, an address was presented to Her Majesty, from 1,750 free colonists of Van Diemen's Land, praying for the abolition of transportation; and a similar petition was presented to this House. The petitioners stated that they lived "in continual dread for themselves and their families, owing to the number of convicts by whom they were surrounded;" that if transportation continued, "they must, at whatever sacrifice, abandon a colony which would become unfit for any man to inhabit who regarded the highest interests of himself or his children;" that the unbounded supply of convict labour was driving the free labourers out of the colony; that "no new emigrants would come, for that they themselves would never have emigrated to Van Diemen's Land, had they foreseen its present state;" and that, ultimately, Van Diemen's Land would exhibit a spectacle of vice and infamy such as the world could not parallel. These were the feelings of the colonists with regard to transportation in 1846. And they now indignantly contradict the statement of Earl Grey, that they are less adverse at present to transportation than they were in the year 1846. I think, Sir, that these facts fully bear out the first allegation of the petitioners, that accumulated and appalling evils, moral and social, have resulted from transportation to Van Diemen's Land. I now come to the second allegation of the Bishop, the clergy, and the free colonists of Tasmania, namely, that, in consequence of the existence of these evils, and of the prayers of the petitioners, their Governor, Sir William Denison, did announce, in the name of the Imperial Government, the total and immediate abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. Sir, before a full account of the state of Van Die- 1173 men's Land reached this country, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had very properly recalled the then Governor of Van Diemen's Land, and determined that transportation to that colony should be suspended for two years. In July, 1846, the right hon. Gentleman left office, and was succeeded by Earl Grey on the 30th of September of that year. The noble Earl transmitted to Sir William Denison his appointment, with a letter of instructions. In that letter the noble Earl stated that he would confine his instructions to the course to be pursued with regard to the convicts in the colony; that on another occasion, which he trusted would not be remote, "he would be able to explain the views of Her Majesty's Government as to the whole system of transportation." But, wrote the noble Earl—The resumption of the plan of pouring into Van Diemen's Land such an annual flood of transported convicts as have recently been sent to that island, I regard as altogether impossible. Whether any more male convicts will ever be transported to Van Diemen's Land or to any other place, is a question on which, for the present, I wish to reserve my opinion.Sir William Denison left this country, therefore, with the distinct instruction that there were two questions with regard to transportation which were unsettled: first, whether any more convicts were ever to be transported to any place; secondly, supposing transportation to be continued, whether any more convicts were ever to be transported to Van Diemen's Land. Sir William Denison arrived in Van Diemen's Laud about the beginning of the year 1847. Soon afterward, in the month of March, he took steps to ascertain the feeling of the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land. He issued a circular to 161 magistrates of the colony asking for an answer to this question:—Do you consider it desirable that the transportation of convicts to this country should cease altogether?As soon as this question was put, the colony rose, en masse almost, to answer it in the affirmative. A public meeting, the largest ever held in the colony, was held on the 6th of May, 1847. Petitions to Her Majesty and to both Houses of Parliament were agreed to, praying that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should be immediately abolished. Each of these petitions was signed by above 5,000 free colonists. At the same time 726 parents, 1174 representing at least 3,500 souls, addressed Her Majesty on behalf of their children, stating that no vigilance nor careful instruction could counteract the mischievous and contaminating influence of convict example. In transmitting these addresses to Earl Grey, Sir William Denison assured the noble Earl that the feeling of the great majority of the community was in favour of the cessation of transportation. Having thus ascertained the feelings of the colony, Sir William Denison opened the Legislative Council on the 20th July, 1847. In his address, he said—I quote from the official report—I take the earliest opportunity of laying before you the decision of Her Majesty's Government, that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should not be resumed at the expiration of the two years for which it has already been decided that it should be discontinued. Her Majesty's Government, in coming to this determination, has acted in accordance with the expressed wishes of a large portion of the free inhabitants of the colony;"—and Sir William Denison concluded his address by saying that he trusted they would not be "cast down should a period of adversity and distress follow the change which they had so ardently desired." Great was the joy of the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land on receiving this announcement. The gentlemen who had been most active in getting up the meeting and petitions against transportation, to which I have just referred, wrote a letter to Earl Grey, thanking him for anticipating their prayer, and declaring that they were convinced that "to no one could the best interests of the colony, moral or political, be more safely entrusted than to the noble Earl." And, as I have said already, the Bishop, the clergy, and all the free colonists of Tasmania, did firmly believe that the imperial faith was pledged to the abolition of transportation. And Sir William Denison did consider that he had given that pledge. This fact is proved beyond doubt by the first despatch which Sir William Denison wrote after he had announced the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. In this despatch, dated the 20th of August, 1847, he first referred to a previous despatch which he had written before he had announced the abolition of transportation. In this previous despatch Sir William Denison had suggested to Earl Grey, that if transportation should be continued to Van Diemen's Land, a form of transportation should be adopted similar to that which Earl Grey has adopt- 1175 ed. In the second despatch, written after the announcement of the abolition of transportation, Sir William Denison desired Earl Grey not to pay any attention to the previous despatch. For—I will quote Sir William Denison's own words—As Her Majesty's Government have decided that transportation is to cease, and as that decision has been publicly made known in the colony, I do not consider that it would be possible or desirable to attempt to carry out the suggestions contained in my former despatch, No. 83. The feelings of a large portion of the community are so fully enlisted in the opposition which has been raised to the convict system here, that any attempt to revive the system in any form would be looked upon as a breach of faith, and would cause, I have no doubt, feelings of hostility which would be very embarrassing to the Government. Under all circumstances, therefore, I think it would be desirable to carry out fully the intentions expressed in your Lordshp's despatch, that transportation to this colony should be discontinued.It is certain, therefore, that Sir William Denison did consider that he had pledged the imperial faith to the abolition of transportation to Vail Diemen's Land. Now, I have heard rumours of insinuations to the effect that Sir William Denison was not authorised to give that pledge; and it is reported that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies has in another place laid the grounds for such insinuations, by quoting an isolated extract from a letter written by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I do not know whether such quibbles will be repeated to-night; if they are, I shall have an opportunity to answer them in my reply. For the present, I challenge the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies to prove that Sir William Denison exceeded his authority. If Sir William Denison did exceed his authority, it was the duty of the Colonial Office, as soon as it was informed of Sir William Denison's proceeding, to have publicly disavowed him, and to have reprimanded or even recalled him, for having pledged the imperial faith to a promise which was not to be performed. But nothing of the kind was done. It was in his first despatch of the 20th of August, 1847, that Sir William Denison informed the Colonial Office that he had announced the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, and that to revive that system in any form would be a breach of faith. This despatch was received at the Colonial Office on the 5th of February, 1848. Its receipt was acknowledged on the 27th of April, 1848. 1176 Then, if ever, was the time when the Colonial Office ought to have publicly disowned the proceedings of Sir William Denison, and reprimanded him if he had exceeded his authority. The Colonial Office did nothing of the kind, but merely acknowledged the valuable information contained in Sir William Denison's despatch. I bog the House to observe, that on the same occasion Earl Grey announced that he intended to resume transportation to Van Diemen's Land, and thus to do the very thing that his Governor had promised that the noble Earl should not do. Therefore, on making this announcement, the time, if ever, was come when Earl Grey should, if he could, have disavowed the proceedings of his Governor. For by not disavowing them, the noble Earl exposed himself to a charge of breach of faith, from which he could only vindicate himself by proving that he had publicly disavowed his Governor. For it is an acknowledged rule of government, without which, in fact, no government could be carried on, that the acts of an inferior officer must be held to be done with the sanction of his superior officer, and to be the acts of the superior officer, unless the superior officer publicly disavow those acts as soon as they come to his knowledge. It follows, therefore, that the Colonial Office did not disavow the proceedings of Sir William Denison, because it was not able so to do consistently with truth. And I must observe that the Colonial Office has expressed emphatic approval of the general conduct of Sir William Denison, and in a despatch dated April 28, 1849, assured him that "his administration had been such as to merit Her Majesty's high approbation." Such high approbation cannot be reconciled with the supposition that Sir William Denison had committed so grave a blunder as to pledge the imperial faith to the abolition of transportation without authority to do so. I think those facts fully bear out the second allegation of the Bishop, the clergy, and the free colonists of Tasmania, that their Governor did pledge the imperial faith to the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. I now come to the third allegation, that up to the present moment this promise has not been fulfilled, and that its non-fulfilment is a direct breach of faith derogatory to the honour of the British nation, and calculated to weaken, if not to destroy, the feelings of confidence and attachment which Van Diemen's Land has hitherto entertained towards the Imperial 1177 Government. The first and most flagrant attempt at a breach of faith occurred about the close of the year 1847. It was resisted and defeated by Sir William Denison. I will, however, describe this attempt. There was in New South Wales a class of convicts "worse (according to Sir William Denison) than the worst of those on Norfolk Island." Now every one whose painful duty it has been to make himself acquainted with the state of Norfolk Island was wont to consider that the worst convicts there were the foulest and most loathsome fiends of the hum an race; incarnate demons, for whom even Dante could have found no abyss low enough in his hell of horrors. What, then, must have been these worse devils of New South Wales? The Colonial Office on the 4th of May, 1847, ordered them to be transported to Van Diemen's Land. This order was issued only three months after the day (5th of February, 1847) on which Earl Grey wrote to Sir William Denison that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should be resumed. When the order of the Colonial Office to transport to Van Diemen's Land the doubly and trebly convicted convicts of New South Wales became known, the inhabitants of Van Die-men's Land were horror-stricken; a public meeting was held, two memorials were addressed to the Queen signed by 5,131 persons, complaining of a manifest breach of faith, and praying that the order in question might be revoked. In transmitting these memorials, Sir William Denison recommended the prayer of the petitioners to the favourable consideration of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and in the same despatch, dated 31st of December, 1847, Sir William Denison made the just remark that "the colonists would complain of a breach of faith towards them in promising that no more convicts should be sent to the colony, whilst, at the same time, a number of the worst description were poured upon them." Ultimately Sir William Denison maintained faith in this instance by disobeying the orders of the Colonial Office, and not transporting the convicts from New South Wales to Van Diemen's Land. The next attempt at a breach of faith was more successful. In a despatch to which I have already referred, dated April 27, 1848, Earl Grey announced his determination to resume transportation to Van Diemen's Land in the form of the ticket-of-leave system. 1178 The House is probably aware that there have been three chief forms of transportation. The legal definition of transportation is, the compulsory removal of an offender from this country to one of those colonies which the Queen in Council has appointed to be a place to which an offender under sentence of transportation might be conveyed. The condition of a convict in a penal colony depends mainly upon rules laid down by Secretaries of State for the Colonies. Those rules have constituted three distinct classes of convicts, namely, assigned convicts, gang convicts, and the ticket-of-leave convicts. The assigned convicts were those who were given to private individuals as servants, and were compelled to work for their masters without receiving wages; the gang convicts were those who were employed in parties on the roads and other public works, under the superintendence of officers of the Government; and the ticket-of-leave convicts are those who are permitted to work on their own account within certain districts specified by the local Government. Of these three forms of transportation, I think the least objectionable was the assignment system, when the assigned convicts were scattered over the interior of Australia, and not congregated in the town. By far the worst form of transportation was the gang system, which, in the interval between 1841 and 1846, produced so horrible a state of things in Van Diemen's Land. Between these two forms of transportation stands the ticket-of-leave system, because a form of transportation is more or less objectionable in proportion as it more or less congregates convicts together. Now, the ticket-of-leave system does not necessarily herd convicts together as the gang system did, nor does it isolate the convict, as was the case under the best form of the assignment system; but it leaves the convict to a considerable extent at liberty to associate with those persons whom he likes, or who will associate with him. Unfortunately, however, in Van Diemen's Land the persons with whom the ticket-of-leave convict can associate, are chiefly ticket-of-leave men, or persons who have been convicts: first, because the felonry, as they are called, constitute the majority of the population; secondly, because the free settlers will not associate with the felonry, whom they despise as a Pariah caste, with feelings similar to, but more intense, than those of the Americans towards the negro. Now the invariable 1179 consequence of the association of convicts is to harden the corrupt in corruption, and to lead back to crime those who have been partially reformed; therefore, if convicts be sent in crowds to a penal colony, it matters little to the colony, as far as morality is concerned, what form of transportation be adopted, provided it be not the worst form of the gang system. This was the opinion of the Transportation Committee. It was also the opinion of Sir William Denison, who said, with regard to exiles from Pentonville (who are supposed to be the best description of convicts), their moral conduct will not be much better than that of other convicts, and will be just as likely to taint the whole community. In another place he said, "Individual instances of reformation do sometimes occur—they are rare exceptions to the general rule;" that "the thief still thieves, the burglar remains a burglar, and the man transported for violence against the person still commits the same offence in the penal colony." A similar opinion was expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a letter to Earl Grey, dated January 20, 1847. In that letter the right hon. Baronet affirmed "that to send large numbers of convicts collectively to any of our colonies, though they were to become free on their arrival there, would, if continued for a series of years, lead to many of the evils which have resulted from transportation;" and he showed that they would probably become "a distinct and separate class differing but little from the present convict population of the penal colonies;" and that it would be difficult to provide against the disproportion of sexes and the attendant evils. The right hon. Baronet proposed that offenders sentenced to transportation should first be subjected to separate imprisonment in this country; then employed on public works in Gibraltar or Bermuda; and then, at the expiration of a certain period of time, depending on various circumstances, they should receive pardons on the condition of quitting this country, and not returning to it during the time of their original sentence. The right hon. Baronet also recommended that they should not be sent collectively to any of the colonies, but, to use the right hon. Baronet's own words, "facilities for emigration should be afforded them individually instead of collectively;" in short, they were to be individually banished from this coun- 1180 try, and not collectively transported to any particular colony. In reply to this letter, on the 5th of February, 1847, Earl Grey expressed his entire concurrence with the views of the right hon. Baronet; and on the same day the noble Earl wrote to inform Sir William Denison that "it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should be resumed." Some time afterwards Earl Grey changed his mind, and, disregarding the promise which he knew had been made by Sir William Denison, the noble Earl, on the 27th April, 1848, wrote, as I have already said, a despatch announcing that exiles and ticket-of-leave convicts, after their punishment in Pentonville, Gibraltar, and elsewhere, were to be transported collectively to Van Diemen's Land. This despatch was laid on the table of the Legislative Council of the Colony on the 12th September, 1848. From that period up to the present moment there has been a series of public meetings, addresses to Her Majesty, petitions to both Houses of Parliament, memorials to the Colonial Office, memorials to the Colonial Governor, and protests and remonstrances against transportation, showing a unanimous, energetic, and dogged determination to compel the Colonial Office to keep faith by discontinuing transportation. First, on the 14th October, the Legislative Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the plan of Earl Grey as "being in the highest degree injurious to the colony;" and 117 magistrates of the colony signed a memorial to Sir William Denison, attesting their approval of that resolution. On the 26th October a meeting was held at Launceston, at which petitions to the Queen and both Houses of Parliament were agreed to. The petitioners stated that they had hailed with gladness the offer to abolish transportation; that this satisfaction had been interrupted by the arrival of convicts; and they prayed for the fulfilment of the pledge that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should for ever cease. On the 21st November another meeting was held at Launceston, at which a resolution was passed condemning the conduct of the Government in renewing transport-portation, "as utterly inconsistent with the good faith which alone can secure the confidence of distant dependencies." On the 15th of December, 1848, a meeting of free tradesmen and labourers was held at Hobart Town, and a memorial to Sir William 1181 Denison was agreed to, protesting against the continuance of transportation. On the 24th January, 1849, another meeting was held at Launceston, at which a resolution was agreed to expressing "astonishment, indignation, and regret at the conduct of the Government in continuing transportation, in direct contradiction to the deliberate and solemn assurance that it should altogether cease." Another resolution was agreed to, for the formation of an Anti-Transportation League; the conditions of membership being, not to employ any male convict who has arrived or shall arrive after the 1st January, 1849. On the 31st August, 1849, Sir William Denison forwarded addresses to Her Majesty from various Church of England, Wesleyan, Baptist, and Independent congregations; the petitioners stated that the announcement of the discontinuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land has been received with gladness and gratitude; that to resume transportation was—inconsistent with national honour and Christian principles;"—"that the male prisoners in Van Diemen's Land were seven times more numerous than the females; that they possessed access to a population of 12,000 children; that to add to the proportion of persons tainted with crime, would be impolitic, cruel, and unchristian.On the 20th of December, 1849, a meeting was held at Launceston; a petition to Her Majesty was agreed to, which received 2,062 signatures. A similar petition from the same meeting was presented to this House by myself last year. The petitioners complained that none of the pledges of the Government had been fulfilled; "that before the expiry of the period of two years, during which the Ministers had announced transportation to be suspended, it was revived." This statement is perfectly correct. In 1846 the suspension of transportation to Van Diemen's Land for two years was announced. Yet in that year and in the next 3,154 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land. In 1847 the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land was announced; and I am informed on good authority that in the three subsequent years about 6,000 convicts were transported to that colony, or more than were transported in any three consecutive years prior to 1842. The petitioners, therefore, declared that they owed it to themselves and families to thwart and counteract in every possible form the importation of convicts, and to resist the persevering injustice of the Brit- 1182 ish Government. The year 1850 commenced with a public meeting at Hobart Town, on 30th January: from that meeting I presented last year a petition to this House, signed by 1,424 persons. The petitioners, in addition to their usual complaints, referred to a statement which was made by the noble Earl in the despatch in which he announced the renewal of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. That statement was—That Her Majesty's Government considered it absolutely necessary that the addition to be made to the population of Van Diemen's Land from the mother country should not consist entirely or even principally of those who have been tainted with crime, but that arrangements should be made for sending free emigrants in sufficient numbers to neutralise the evil effects of a continual accession of persons who have incurred by their offences the sentence of transportation.The petitioners complain, that in complete contradiction of this declaration, the addition which has been made to the population of Van Diemen's Land from this country has consisted principally of convicts. This statement is true, for the number of emigrants to Van Diemen's Land in 1848 and 1849, including the wives and children of convicts, was about one-fourth the number of convicts transported to that colony. In April, 1850, an event occurred which doubled the excitement in Van Diemen's Land against transportation. It was the arrival at Hobart Town of the ship Neptune with its cargo of convicts, which the colony of the Cape had rejected. This event produced the deepest indignation amongst the colonists of Van Diemen's Land. They looked upon it as an insult as well as an injury. They had heard of the circular which had been issued by the Colonial Office 7th August, 1848, to the Cape of Good Hope, New South Wales, and the other Australian colonies, with the exception of Van Diemen's Land. In that circular the Colonial Office had laid down the rule that no convicts were to be transported to any one of those colonies without the consent of their inhabitants. Van Diemen's Land had been excepted from that rule, on the special plea that it was a penal colony. Its inhabitants held that plea to be a most unjust and tyrannical one; for they argued that the only difference between their colony and New South Wales had been occasioned by a breach of faith on the part of the Colonial Office, in not fulfilling the promise to abolish transportation; and that, if that promise had been fulfilled, transportation 1183 could not have been resumed in opposition to their wishes without a violation of the rule laid down by the Colonial Office. The arrival of the Neptune showed them how successfully the colony of the Cape had resisted an attempt to violate that rule, and gave them ocular demonstration of two important facts: first, that it was the deliberate intention of the Colonial Office to make their colony a huge cesspool, in which all the criminal filth of the British empire was to be accumulated; secondly, that it was in the power of the people of a colony, by combining vigour and self-reliance to defeat the intentions of the Colonial Office, and to compel it to keep faith. I am convinced that the arrival of the Neptune will hereafter be a memorable epoch in the history of the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. The free colonists immediately protested against the landing of the convicts from that ship. They have made similar protests on the arrival of every subsequent convict ship; and with every protest their anger was increased, till their wrath was incensed to the highest degree by the arrival of the report of a speech said to have been delivered last year by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place. In that speech the noble Earl was reported to have expressed himself to the effect that the Imperial Government had created the colony of Van Die-men's Land for convicts; that the free settlers had established themselves there with their eyes open to the present state of things, and had no right to complain. At all their public meetings they have denied the accuracy of that statement; they said that they had emigrated to Van Diemen's Land before it had been made the sole penal colony of England; that the Imperial Government had encouraged them to emigrate, and sold them lands, and by so doing it had entered into a tacit compact with them that it would not so abuse its power of transportation as to drive out the free inhabitants, and render the possession of their lands intolerable. In the same speech the noble Earl was reported to have said that the free colonists had become less averse to transportation than they were in 1847. They have flatly contradicted the noble Earl; they asserted that the noble Earl, like his predecessor, Lord Stanley, was ignorant of the state of the colony; that living on the opposite side of the globe, he was liable to be misinformed by officials, who have a deep pecuniary in- 1184 terest in the continuance of transportation, whose salaries depended upon upholding transportation, and who boldly invented and repeated fictions, knowing almost a year must elapse before they could be contradicted. Sir, as I have already said, the Bishop, the clergy, and the free colonists of Tasmania, have declared, in contradiction of the statement of Earl Grey, that they are utterly hostile to receiving convicts under any system; and with the view of proving Earl Grey's assertion to be erroneous, in each of the three districts of the colony large public meetings were held last autumn. First, on the 9th August last, in the northern district; from this meeting I have presented this year a petition with 1,519 signatures, including those of the Bishop of Tasmania, and the Archdeacon of Launceston. Secondly, on the 12th September, a meeting was held in the south district, from which I have presented this year a petition with 2,625 signatures. Thirdly, on the 17th September, a meeting was held in the central district, from which a memorial was addressed to Earl Grey. At one of these meetings Mr. Weston, a justice of the peace, a well-known and highly respectable gentleman, one of the oldest settlers in Van Diemen's Land, moved a resolution contradicting the statement that they had become reconciled to transportation. In so doing he drew, amidst the cheers of the meeting, a striking picture of the social state of the colony. He spoke to this effect:—I think, that generally speaking, noble Lords and English Gentlemen know nothing about the state of our colony. It has occurred to me, that if they could hare the subject practically elucidated to them in their own persons and families, they would immediately understand why we are so utterly hostile to receiving convicts under any system. Were I in England and had a talk with any English gentleman about transportation to Van Diemen's Land, I would endeavour to make him realise our condition by placing himself and family in a position similar to that of respectable families in this colony. I would say to him, allow me to propose that you should remove your family from Belgravia to the worst part of St. Giles, where thieves, burglars, prostitutes, and all kinds of infamous characters abound. You shall have a commodious house, comfortable carriages, plenty of servants, a governess for your daughters, a tutor for your sons, and a secretary for yourself, but you must select every one of your attendants from the population of St. Giles. Then the lowest prostitutes would be your housemaids and nurserymaids—from the flash women you might select your ladies' maids—a cast-off mistress would be an accomplished governess for your daughters—you might fill your pantry and your stables with burglars, thieves, and pickpockets—a Greek, well versed in all the arts and vices of Greece, would 1185 be ready to accept the office of tutor to your sons—and you might complete your establishment with a secretary so skilful as to save you the trouble of writing your name to a cheque—and then you would have a tip-top establishment after the fashion of Van Diemen's Land. I think, English gentlemen would look rather amazed at such a proposal, and that a slight taste of transportation would destroy their taste for transportation.I entreat hon. Members to endeavour to place themselves mentally in the position of Mr. Weston before they give their vote to-night, and they will well understand why the Bishop, the clergy, the fathers and mothers of families in Van Diemen's Land, are so utterly hostile to the continuance of transportation to that colony. From these meetings there emanated petitions to the other House of Parliament, and addressed to the Queen. I began by stating to the House the contents of those petitions, and the grave and serious allegations which they contained, and which I have endeavoured to substantiate; I will only therefore call the attention of the House to two addresses to the Queen, which are not contained in the papers on the table of the House—one signed by the wife of the Bishop of Tasmania, and 1,400 women of Van Diemen's Land. They appealed as wives, mothers, and daughters, to Her Majesty's maternal sympathy, stating—"that in the course of the last ten years 30,000 prisoners had been landed in the colony, which contained 20,000 young persons, the greater portion of whom were under fourteen years of age.The other address was from the Bishop, archdeacons, and clergymen of the United Church of England and Ireland in Tasmania. This deserves the especial attention of the House: for the noble Earl (Earl Grey) relied mainly on the clergy to give efficacy to this scheme of transportation; they have assured Her Majesty that the majority of all classes in Van Diemen's Land are opposed to transportation; "that convicts can no longer be introduced into the colony with real advantage to themselves or to the community;" that "any lucrative return to be derived from convict labour is beyond calculation outweighed by the frightful evils of the convict system;" and they have earnestly prayed Her Majesty on behalf of those for whom they are put in charge to discontinue transportation to Van Diemen's Land. At all the meetings to which I have just referred, resolutions were agreed to in favour of an Anti-Transportation League. In this agitation Launceston and the men of Cornwall, as 1186 usual, led the way. They issued a circular to the Australian Colonies, inviting their co-operation to secure the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. Everywhere they have met with sympathy and support; for the Australian colonies are, and feel themselves to be, deeply interested in the question of the continuation of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. In fact, the collective transportation of the convicts of the British empire to Van Diemen's Land, is equivalent to transportation to all the Australian colonies. For there are two causes in operation in those colonies: one attracting the convict when he becomes free to the continent of Australia; the other repelling the expiree from Van Diemen's Land. The first cause is the boundless extent of unoccupied land in Australia, of the best quality, containing millions of fertile acres naturally cleared, waiting only for hands to cultivate them; the demand for those hands attract labourers from every quarter, and especially from the nearest point, namely, Van Diemen's Land, where a large portion of the limited extent of the best land is already occupied. The second cause which repels the free labour from Van Diemen's Land is the perpetual influx of convict labour, which has already overstocked the labour market of Van Diemen's Land. Therefore every fresh convict who arrives in that colony still further depresses the labour market, and tends to drive out a free settler or an expiree; and this process has been so long carried on, that three-fourths of the adult male population of Van Diemen's Land are, or have been, convicts. In consequence of this preponderance in numbers, the felonry (as they are termed) of Van Diemen's Land have become rampant and insolent. Relying on the authority of Earl Grey, they claim that colony as the patrimony and freehold of the convicted felons of England, and the paradise of thieves. Through their organs in the colonial press I see that they threaten "to kick out of the colony the free settlers," whom they denounce as intruders and "puritan moralists." In opposition to the Anti-Transportation League, and in support of Earl Grey, the felonry have formed a criminals' aid society, or Tasmanian League. They have rallied round the Government; and, in fact, the only devoted friends and stanch allies upon whom the Colonial Office can count throughout Tasmania, or even Australia, are the felonry of Van Diemen's Land, 1187 under the leadership of the insane rebels from Ireland. Sir, if we continue much longer to transport convicts to Van Diemen's Land, we shall be able to add to our national exhibition an unrivalled specimen of a red criminal republic, with liberty for crime, equality in infamy, and fraternity in vice. Not content with Van Diemen's Land, the felonry have migrated in shoals to the continent of Australia. There they pursue their old professions—the thief thieves, the burglar commits burglaries, the swindler swindles, and each after his habits indulges in his vicious propensities. The presence of these persons in the Australian colonies affords the only explanation of the otherwise inexplicable fact, that in these colonies, where the economical causes of crime scarcely exist, the proportion of crime to population is greater than in old countries where the economical causes of crime are most potent. It is an unquestionable fact, that almost all the crime committed in the Australian colonies is committed by persons who have been transported from this country. The courts of justice of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and New Zealand, are filled with these persons. The Legislature of New South Wales attempted to protect that colony against the expirees from Van Diemen's Land, by certain police regulations called the Vagrancy Act. That Act the Colonial Office has vetoed, to the intense disgust of the people of New South Wales, because it tended to prevent the free circulation of free criminals throughout Australia. The Governor of New Zealand has asserted that the greater portion of the large amount of crime in that colony is committed by expirees. Thus, Sir, the foul stream of crime rising in England, at first somewhat purified by passing through Pentonville and other penitentiaries, becomes foul again as it flows through the public works at Gibraltar, and elsewhere; then traverses the moral swamps of Van Diemen's Land, acquiring fresh corruption, and pours its fœtid waters over the continent of Australia, whence its pestilential exhalations reach New Zealand and the remotest isles of Polynesia. The inhabitants of the Australian colonies know full well that the collective transportation of our criminals to Van Diemen's Land is ultimately transportation to them. They have been told it over and over again by the Colonial Office, and the persons who have endeavoured to persuade them to receive convicts from 1188 England. The staple argument of those Gentlemen was, that it would be far better to receive convicts directly from England, with the pecuniary advantages which England had offered to those who would take her criminals off her hands, than to receive convicts indirectly through Van Diemen's Land, without those pecuniary advantages. The answer of the Australian colonies has been, that they will not have convicts, either directly or indirectly. With this intention, they have adopted the idea of the Colonial Office, and formed an Australian league. The motto of that league is abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. Last autumn numerous anti-transportation meetings were held throughout New South Wales and Victoria. From these meetings emanated petitions to the Legislative Council of New South Wales against transportation, signed, I am informed, by 35,000 persons, including the three bishops and all the clergy of that colony. At all these meetings, resolutions were passed in favour of assisting Van Diemen's Land in its effort to abolish transportation, and similar sentiments were expressed in all the petitions to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. An Anti-Transportation Association has been formed at Sydney. I have its Report, dated the 6th January last. According to that Report, it has petitioned the Queen and Parliament for the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. It has opened communications with all the principal towns and districts of New South Wales, Victoria, Van Diemen's Land, South Australia, and New Zealand; it has had the most encouraging answers from all these places; it has prepared a petition from all the Australian colonies for the cessation of transportation to Van Die-men's Land, which petition I expect to have the honour of presenting to the House on some future occasion, with 50,000 signatures attached to it. Sir, before I sit down, I wish to put one question to this House and to Her Majesty's Ministers. Last year you gave representative institutions and self-government to Van Diemen's Land. What did you mean by so doing? How did you mean that the inhabitants of that colony should govern themselves? Did you mean that they should govern themselves in the manner which they think best for their interests, or in the manner which you think best for the interests of this country? Now, on the subject of transportation, there is a conflict between 1189 the alleged interests of this country, and those of Van Diemen's Land. You think that it is for your interest to transport your convicts to Van Diemen's Land, and to cast forth your criminal filth on Van Diemen's Land. The inhabitants of that colony think that it is for their interest not to receive your felons, and to continue to be your cesspool. Which of these two interests ought the representatives of the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land to prefer? Ought they to prefer the interests of their own constituents or of your constituents? They will, without doubt, prefer the interests of their own constituents. They are bound to do so by every recognised principle of constitutional government. They will do so. I believe not one man will be elected a Member of the House of Assembly of Van Diemen's Land who is not pledged to resist transportation by every means in his power. What will you do? Discontinue transportation, or repeal the constitution of Van Diemen's Land? You must do one of these two things; for free institutions and transportation cannot co-exist in Van Diemen's Land, as long as the feelings of the inhabitants of that colony are such as they are at present. I beg the House to observe that the question upon which I ask for a decision to-night is not whether there shall or shall not be such a punishment as transportation; upon that question I have repeatedly expressed opinions which are unchanged. The question for the House is not whether any more convicts shall be transported to any colony, but whether any more convicts shall be transported to Van Diemen's Land without the consent of its inhabitants. You have laid down the rule with regard to your southern colonies, that no convicts shall be sent to any one of them without its consent. You say that Van Diemen's Land shall be the one exception to that rule; that you created that colony for convicts; that it has been, is, and shall continue to he, a penal colony. Then I say you have committed an act of insanity in giving them free institutions, and arming them with the best weapons to resist your will. I therefore call upon you to keep faith with them, and to extend to them the rule that no convicts shall be transported to them without their consent. I have proved that all classes of free settlers in Van Diemen's Land, that bishop and clergy, magistracy and gentry, tradesmen and labourers, fathers and mothers, are utterly hostile to the receiving of convicts under any system. 1190 I have shown that accumulated and appalling evils, moral, political, and social, have resulted from transportation to Van Diemen's Land; that in consequence of the existence of those evils, which you have repeatedly acknowledged to exist, the Colonial Office did promise first in 1846 to suspend transportation to Van Diemen's Land for two years; 2ndly, in 1847, to discontinue transportation altogether to that island; 3rdly, in 1848, that the additions to be made from this country to the population of that colony should not consist principally of convicts. I have proved from your own despatches that every one of these promises has been distinctly made, and not one of them has been kept; that in 1846 you did not suspend transportation to Van Diemen's Land; that in 1847 you did not discontinue transportation to that colony; and that since 1848 you have poured into Van Diemen's Land four times as many convicts as free emigrants. I have shown from resolutions agreed to at numerously-attended public meetings, and by petitions signed by every one of note and respectability in Van Diemen's Land, that your faithless and vacillating conduct has produced throughout the whole of Tasmania and Australia the deepest indignation and discontent; that it is destroying the attachment of Van Diemen's Land to this country, and is producing an Australasian league, against transportation. I believe such a league amongst colonies with free institutions, situated at the Antipodes, cannot be resisted. It appears to me, therefore, that it would be not only just, but wise and prudent, to take steps to bring about as speedily as possible the discontinuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. I exhort and warn the House to suffer no delay in this matter, if you hold dear our Australasian dependencies. For many years I have taken the deepest interest in the affairs of those colonies. I am convinced that they are amongst the most valuable of our colonial possessions, the priceless jewel in the diadem of our colonial empire. I believe they can be easily retained with a little common sense and judgment on our part; that well governed they would cost us nothing, but offer us daily improving markets for our industry, fields for the employment of our labour and capital, and happy homes for our surplus population. That Australian empire is in peril from the continuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, and therefore I move that an Address be 1191 presented to Her Majesty, praying for the discontinuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying for the discontinuance of Transportation to Van Diemen's Land.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, the hon. Baronet who has just brought forward this Motion, both at the commencement and also at the conclusion of his speech, informed the House that his Motion did not affect the question of the continuance or discontinuance of transportation as a punishment generally—that it related solely to the discontinuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land—and that if the House agreed to the Address, it would not affect the question of whether transportation, as a system of punishment, should or should not be continued. But, I beg to remind the House, that the greater part of the arguments the hon. Baronet has used against the continuance of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, apply as strongly against its continuance to any other British colony as they do to Van Diemen's Land; and that if the House agree to his Motion on those specific grounds which he has stated, they must be prepared to encounter the more important and wider question of what we are to do with our criminals, and what is to be the punishment we mean to substitute for transportation? Sir, I will not now go at large into this question. I assume, from his speech, that the hon. Baronet is not prepared to advocate the discontinuance of transportation as a system of punishment; but again I must remind the House, before they decide on this specific question, to bear in mind its relation to the general question to which I have just adverted—and to bear in mind the opinions repeatedly expressed by this House with reference to the discontinuance of transportation. In the year 1837, a Committee was appointed on the subject of transportation, in which the hon. Baronet took an able and active part. That Committee paid great attention to this subject, and in their report stated it as their belief that it was essential there should be an ultimate removal of convicted criminals from this country to distant colonies. The report of that Committee states, that the system of transportation is a system which it is essential to retain as a means whereby 1192 offenders against the laws, after having undergone a certain amount of punishment in this country, may be enabled to commence a new career in a new land with those chances of obtaining an honest livelihood, which the competition in the labour market at home, and the consequent indisposition to employ any persons suffering from the stigma of crime, effectually closed to them here. And the Committee go on to state, that the question for consideration then is, whether transportation might not be continued to the colonics, relieved from the danger of producing those social evils which had hitherto been found to follow it. No doubt the Committee condemned the system of transportation as it had been carried on up to that time; but they recorded as their deliberate opinion that the removal of the convicts to a new sphere of life, where they would not be thrown back into their former society and among their former evil associates, would be a highly advantageous arrangement. Subsequently to the report of this Committee, the question has frequently come before the House of Commons; and although there may have been no actual vote taken, the opinion of the House has been uniformly expressed to the effect that transportation—that is to say, not the system carried on up to the time when the report of the Committee appeared, or even up to 1846, but meaning the ultimate removal from this country of convicts condemned for a certain class of offences, and after having undergone a system of penal discipline here—was absolutely essential, both as a means of relieving this country from the evils which have been found to arise in other countries from the accumulation of a large number of criminals, who could not be kept in a state of perpetual imprisonment, and who, after liberation, could not obtain a livelihood otherwise than by falling back into crime—and also as, in itself, an essential element in the punishment of crime, from its holding out to criminals the deterring prospect of expatriation. In 1847–48 a Committee of the House of Lords sat on the subject; and that likewise put on record a deliberate opinion that transportation ought to be maintained. The Committee states, that nearly all persons—the Committee itself being unanimous—who had been examined, were of opinion that the system of transportation cannot safely be abandoned, and that as a punishment it had terrors for offenders generally which nothing short of death possesses. I have 1193 only recalled to the recollection of the House the passages in those reports, and the expressed opinion of the House itself on the subject, in order that in dealing with this subject we may not so deal with it as to render it impossible for the Government to carry into effect the decisions of both branches of the Legislature in regard to transportation. But with regard to the narrower question raised by the hon. Baronet, and limited to Van Diemcn's Land, I am at once ready to admit to the hon. Gentleman—for I will not waste the time of the House by reviewing in detail the evidence which has been adduced—that there has latterly been, and that there is, a very general desire among the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land for the discontinuance of transportation to that colony under any circumstances whatever. The hon. Baronet has adverted to the petitions addressed to this House and to Her Majesty, from different classes in Van Diemen's Land, some of the persons signing those petitions being persons whose sentiments are entitled to the greatest attention, and all praying that no more convicts, under any circumstances, shall be sent to that colony in which they live. Now, in referring to those petitions, I might say that in many cases the statements they contain are grossly exaggerated, and that justice would not be done to the colony, if we are to accept such statements as correct with regard to the general condition of the colony, and to the results of the system of transportation of late years. But I clear the ground in making, at once, the admission that there exists a general desire in the colony for the abolition of transportation. The hon. Baronet, in making this Motion, chiefly relies on an alleged promise of the Government given some years ago, that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should cease altogether. On this supposed promise he grounds his Motion; and I will concede that if the faith of the Government had been actually pledged to the unqualified discontinuance of transportation to this particular colony, there would, indeed, be very strong grounds for the appeal to the House on this occasion. Certainly I will not deny that there are reasons for dissatisfaction on the part of the colonists, arising out of a communication made to them by the Government on this subject; but at the same time I think the hon. Baronet has considerably overstated his case in representing that the faith of the Government has been pledged 1194 to the extent he mentions. The hon. Baronet has read to the House extracts from despatches in which a declaration is made by the Government that transportation, as carried on previous to 1846, would not be resumed in Van Diemen's Land. Now, what are the facts? The hon. Baronet has detailed the frightful social evils existing in 1846 in Van Diemen's Land, owing to the vast accumulation of convicts in the few preceding years sent from this country to that colony, and he has also stated that the Administration of Sir Robert Peel, the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) then being Secretary for the Colonies, had determined, in consequence of the results of excessive transportation to Van Diemen's Land, to suspend further transportation to that colony for two years. There was no decision recorded to that effect; but at the time we came into office I had communications of a very full and ample character with my predecessor in the office I have the honour to hold—and my obligations to the right hon. Gentleman, I am glad, on this occasion, to acknowledge—and we were informed that such was the decision at which the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel had arrived—that was to say, that in consequence of the social state of Van Diemen's Land, they had determined to stay the immigration of convicts into that colony for two years. It appeared that the mischief operated in two ways—it inflicted a social evil and demoralised the colony—worked, as the convicts were, in gangs, the result of which was the dissemination of vice and of moral degradation—and further, in consequence of the labour market being overstocked, the convicts emerging from the probationary gangs into other classes, as provided for by the regulations established by Lord Stanley, could find no means of employment, and were in the end forced back on the hands of Government. Under the circumstances which we found before us, we adopted at once the decision come to by the late Administration, and it was accordingly announced that transportation to Van Diemen's Land would be suspended for a limited period. The hon. Baronet (Sir William Molesworth) referring back to this, now says that there has been a breach of engagement, inasmuch as in 1846 and in 1847 a large number of convicts were sent to, and arrived in, Van Diemen's Land. It is quite true that, in 1846, a large number of convicts did arrive in Van 1195 Diemen's Land; but the reason was, that they had left this country at the end of 1845, or the first part of 1846, before the decision of the Administration had been announced, and they arrived out most of them towards the close of 1846, and some few at the beginning of 1847. As far as I can obtain information, I can state that not a single convict was sent to Van Diemen's Land in 1847; and if any convicts arrived out in that colony after January, 1847, they must have sailed from this country prior to the period when the suspension of transportation was determined on. I may therefore say, that in 1847, and up to the close of 1848, no convicts arrived at Van Diemen's Land. But, then, what did we do? The hon. Baronet has alluded to a letter I addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on this subject, wherein I stated what were the views of the Government in the position in which they found themselves, and what were the prospects in respect to the accumulation of convicts in this country in consequence of the temporary suspension of transportation to Van Diemen's Land. I have, on other occasions, stated to the House what those views and intentions, at that period, were; and I have also explained how, of necessity, they were subsequently modified in the presence of the practical difficulties which we found in our path in our attempt to carry our system into effect. I am bound to admit that the views expressed in the letter referred to, and in Earl Grey's despatch to Sir William Denison, are not in strict accordance with the course subsequently pursued by the Government. I have stated before, and I repeat, that I was led to state those views and intentions in the letter in question from a belief that they were in the abstract perfectly right; but without sufficient experience of the practical difficulties of carrying them out—which difficulties those only can be really acquainted with who have been charged with the administration of the law in this country. But what did Earl Grey do? He did not write to Sir William Denison simply to state that transportation to Van Die-men's Land was to be suspended, and that at the end of two years no transportation was to be resumed; but in this very despatch he distinctly pointed out what the Committee of 1847 pointed out—the absolute necessity of the ultimate removal of convicts from this country—not as, up to that time, immediately after sentence— 1196 but in an advanced stage of punishment, and after having undergone a reformatory part of their sentence in this country—and not to Van Diemen's Land alone, but to Australia generally. Earl Grey adverts to the advisibility of dispersing convicts after having reached a certain stage in their punishment; and he clearly pointed, not to the abolition of the transportation of convicts, but to the imposition of the severer part of, the punishment in this country, to separate imprisonment, to subsequent hard labour on public works, and to ultimate removal from this country, not in accumulated numbers, but under a new system, to apply to the Australian colonies generally—the new system referred to being that system of exile that was enforced with regard to prisoners sent to Pentonville, the exiles to be subject to all the penalties attached by the law to returned convicts returning to this country before the period fixed for their punishment had expired. Earl Grey, no doubt, contemplated that the exile system might generally be put in practice with regard to the great mass of convicts, and that when they were spread in a colony they might be free to obtain their own living, subjected only to the restriction that they should not return to this country during the time in which they held the conditional pardon. In addition to this despatch, my noble Friend sent also the correspondence which had taken place in this country between the Home and Colonial Offices, which was afterwards published in the colony: and I may also refer to my own letter, in which I very plainly stated, while giving expression to the views of the Government, that it was to be implied that the Government held itself at liberty to modify its intentions as it met the practical difficulties which might arise. I think, therefore, that Sir William Denison put a larger construction on these documents than the Government had contemplated. I do not blame Sir William Denison for that, because the language which I used was the language of hope, rather than of experience, and the views I stated were not, I think, expressed with sufficient caution. But, at the same time, I contend that it conveyed no promise, and no pledge of the Government, still less a pledge binding other Governments which might succeed us, that transportation under no circumstances was to be resumed to Van Diemen's Land, or that Van Diemen's Land was to be constituted an exception in 1197 this matter to other colonies. After, however, the declaration made by Sir William Denison, and after communications had taken place, and upon the representation of Sir William Denison himself, when we found he had mistaken the views of Her Majesty's Government, the system of sending out convicts as exiles was abandoned, and on his recommendation we substituted the system of sending them out on tickets of leave. As regards the application of it to the few, that system may be said not to have failed; but when applied to large numbers, we found that the freedom from all control led to serious evils, and that the colonists had some right to complain of the consequences upon society. And it was in reference to these evils that Sir William Denison, on behalf of the colonists, recommended that convicts should be subjected to the limited control of tickets of leave, that they should be spread in districts, but always under a certain discipline, which they could not be subjected to when holding conditional pardons. It is also true that convicts have been sent to Van Diemen's Land, contrary to the hopes which were expressed when the Government in 1847 first began to deal with this subject. We were under the pressure of circumstances, which rendered it utterly impossible to continue the course which we had desired to adopt, unless, indeed, we had gone directly in the face of the avowed opinions of Parliament—I refer to the debates of this House, and to the recorded opinions of the House of Lords—that transportation ought not to be discontinued. In that very despatch, in which Sir William Denison spoke of the general expectation that the old system of transportation would be abandoned, he qualified what he said by a statement which the hon. Baronet (Sir William Molesworth) has not read. Sir William Denison said—Under all the circumstances, I think it would be desirable to carry out the intention mentioned in your Lordship's despatch, to discontinue transportation;" and he added, "and to make every possible arrangement, financial as well as administrative, by which the colony may provide for the inconvenience that may arise from the change of system.Sir William Denison here referred to the effects of the sudden abolition of transportation; and he entertained no doubt that there would be great financial difficulties—that a great demand for labour would arise, for which there would be no adequate supply, if transportation was to 1198 be suddenly and totally abandoned. We also received from Sir William Denison, subsequent to that period, statements from time to time of the effects produced by the suspension of transportation, by which it appeared that the evils arising from the crowding of convicts had been diminished, and that there was again arising a demand for labour, for which there was no due supply. We received a despatch from Sir William Denison, dated 27th June, 1848, and laid on the table of the House in February, 1849, in which he calculated that there would be needed in the colony a supply of from 700 to 800 convicts yearly; and it was thus made out that the new system had been so far successful in the colony. Afterwards that demand so far increased that in the next year Sir William Denison stated, that taking everything into consideration he thought an annual importation of 1,500 male convicts would not be too excessive. We received another despatch in December, 1850, in which he repeats that 1,500 male convicts could annually be received with advantage—in reference to the opportunities for employment in the colony, and not in reference to moral considerations, which rest on entirely different grounds. There is, then here evidence that one class of evils following transportation was removed by the measure of the Government, and that room existed for a short period in Van Diemen's Land for a limited amount of transportation, in order to supply the undoubted demands of the labour market. With regard to what was done subsequent to the resumption of transportation to that colony, I think the hon. Baronet has been somewhat misinformed. In a petition printed in a morning paper of to-day, and emanating from persons in the city of London, on this subject, it is asserted that 30,000 male convicts have been sent into Van Diemen's Land since 1840. The hon. Baronet has also represented the number as excessive; but as far as I have been able to collect the facts, I am justified in saying that there has been in this matter considerable exaggeration. I have obtained the returns of the Home Office, and of the Colonial Office, and I find that since 1840 there have been sent into Van Diemen's Land, from this country, 22,506 male convicts. The hon. Gentleman, on this point, has suggested that the great evil to the colony arises from the great disproportion of female from the number of male convicts. He says that transportation has 1199 gone on on the same scale as before, that the stream has rushed on unchecked. Now, I find that in the six years before 1846, not including 1846, the first half of which had elapsed before the suspension of transportation took place, that 17,675 out of the 22,506 were sent to Van Diemen's Land; and that since 1846, not more than 4,831 convicts have been sent into that colony. The year before last only 300 were sent to Van Diemen's Land; but last year, I admit, a larger number was sent, but that was owing to the circumstance, that transportation had been wholly suspended for two years. I may add, that in July, 1846, the number of convicts in the colony, male and female together, amounted to 30,507; and in July, 1850, there were only 25,405, being a reduction of 5,000 convicts. This showed that something at least had been done to stay the stream of immigration of convict labour into the colony, and to restore society in the colony to a healthy condition. And remembering the aggravated evils which pressed upon the colonists in Van Diemen's Land in 1846, suffering as they were from those evils, and from the state of society engendered from the large accumulation of convicts—admitting also the expectations held out to them that transportation, at least without essential modifications, would not be resumed in that colony, I am prepared to admit that they have reason in their complaints, and that it is the duty, as it is the desire, of the Government to give every attention to their remonstrances, and to endeavour to relieve them as far as possible, if not altogether, from the evils against which they are now entering their protest. Before I now proceed to state what have been the views of the Government as to the pressure of convicts in the colony, I will say a few words in allusion to what has been said by the hon. Baronet with regard to the social condition of Van Diemen's Land; and I will call the attention of the House to some papers which have been laid on the table, having reference to the circumstances of the colony at this moment. I find, in respect to its material condition, a despatch from Sir William Denison, dated 15th of November, 1848. Sir William Denison wrote as follows:—Having thus disposed of the report, I will attempt to bring before your Lordship such a statement of the advantages which the colony has derived from the presence of the convicts, as well as the disadvantages under which the colonists are now labouring from the same cause, as will 1200 afford sufficient data for some positive conclusion as to the amount to be contributed from the British Treasury towards the revenue, in order that this long-agitated question may be at once set at rest by a positive declaration on the part of Her Majesty's Government. First, then, with regard to the advantages which the colony has derived, and does derive, from the presence of the convicts. On comparing the aspect of this colony, whose existence dates back only about 45 years, with that of colonies of far older date settled under different circumstances, we are at once struck with the appearance of wealth and prosperity which is manifested everywhere. The houses in the towns are well built of stone or brick; the streets are well kept; the roads are remarkably good; the wharfs and public buildings show evidence of a large outlay of labour. In the country districts the houses of the settlers are well built, the inns and houses of public entertainment are large and commodious; in fact, there is a general aspect of ease and affluence throughout the length and breadth of the land. If inquiry be made as to the original condition of the persons who have been able to sink so much capital in buildings, &c., which yield no return, it will be found that in very few instances did these bring any amount of capital into the country. The whole of this has been the product of the labour, of whom? Of the convicts. Without the cheap labour so freely and lavishly furnished, Van Diemen's Land would now have been in a state of proverty approximating to Western Australia, instead of exhibiting those indications of wealth and prosperity which are evidenced by an import and export trade amounting to upwards of 1,200,000l. per annum, and which is daily increasing and assuming a more healthy and substantial appearance. This is the result of the convict system in past years. What is the case at present? There are altogether about 24,000 convicts in the colony, of whom about 7,000 are in the hands of the Government; the remaining 17,000 compose about three-fourths of the working class; the whole of which, by the census, would appear to amount to about 24,000. The presence of these convicts, who supply the labour market at a cheap rate, keeps down the price in Van Diemen's Land as compared with New South Wales and South Australia. Here the ordinary wages of labour vary from 9l. to 12l. per annum. In those colonies they range from 18l. to 24l.; and the same proportion, or nearly so, holds good in the wages of mechanics and artisans. It may, therefore, be fairly said that a saving of 9l. per annum, on an average, is made in the wages of every one of the working class in this colony; and, as this class contains, as before stated, 24,000 individuals, the saving to the employers of labour amounts altogether to 216,000l."Now, I have spoken of the advantages of the new system, of the different class of the convicts who are now sent out of the country—convicts who have undergone a preparatory and reformatory punishment here, under the best regulations as to the system of labour which could be applied. The hon. Baronet says that all this makes no difference, and that the moral taint remains the same. I think that all the evidence of 1201 which we are in possession on this subject will be found to contradict that opinion of the hon. Baronet. It is stated in one of the recent reports of the Pentonville Commissioners, the report in question being signed, among others, by the hon. Gentleman himself, who at the time was one of the Commissioners, that the "exiles" from Pentonville had become very valuable servants, and were in all respects very superior to the average; and that the result of the system pursued with them was, that the convicts sent from that prison had been qualified to obtain honest positions in this or in any other country. Mr. Boyd, also, superintendent surgeon of Blenheim, in Van Diemen's Land, gave the following evidence on the subject:—With respect to the prisoners from Portland, they appear, as I have before remarked, to be in decidedly higher order than the hulk men as a body; for, so far as a close supervision of their conduct during the short time they have been at this establishment has enabled me to form an opinion, I consider them, with a few exceptions, to be a well-disposed class of individuals, and from their being mostly ablebodied, and having been taught useful occupations at home, I have no doubt they will prove very desirable servants to the colonists.I have called attention to these facts, to show that transportation at this time must not be regarded as the same system as transportation a few years ago; and that it must not be assumed, because convicts were formerly sent to the colonies without any care being taken in their moral or religious training, and were placed together to work in gangs, whereby evils were produced, the effects of which were even now but too apparent, that, therefore, transportation under a totally different system would still be followed and accompanied by the same mischiefs. Again, Sir William Denison, in commenting on a letter addressed to the Secretary for the Colonies by Mr. Hall, wrote thus in a despatch, dated November 27, 1850:—The state of Van Diemen's Land, in all its moral and social relations, will not suffer by a comparison with that of any of the colonies on the mainland of Australia; and I would unhesitatingly appeal to any of the strangers who have during the last few years visited this colony to bear me out in the assertion. I enclose a copy of a letter, written, I believe, by an officer of high rank in the civil service of the East India Company—one who, from his position, was peculiarly qualified to form a correct judgment upon such subjects—which will servo to give your Lordship a better idea of the state of the colony than the rhetorical exaggerations of Mr. Hall. I need hardly apologise to your Lordship for addressing you on such a subject. I am placed in a position 1202 which compels me to notice matters which may operate injuriously to those over whom Her Majesty has been pleased to place me.In another despatch from Sir William Denison, with which he transmits the Address to the Crown from the Bishop and clergy of Van Diemen's Land, he states that in forwarding this address, he begs it to be understood that he does not concur in the general statements which it offers. He says—The strict system of discipline maintained at the different stations began to produce its natural effect in the diminution of crime during the course of last year, as evidenced by the police returns which accompanied the last report of the Controller General; and many of the offences now brought under the notice of the visiting magistrates, especially at the road stations, are in some way or other connected with attempts on the part of the convicts to escape from a system of discipline which, from the strict mode in which it is generally enforced, has proved most effective. If it were possible to trace the causes which have led each of the tenants of a convict station to his position as a prisoner of the Crown, it would be found that idleness, a deeply ingrained disinclination to any occupation requiring continuous and steady labour, either of body or mind, has been the primary cause in nine cases out of ten. The steady work exacted from these men at the station, and the monotony of the employment, are most distasteful, of course, and as opportunities are easily found of escaping from a gang at work upon the roads, cases of absconding have been numerous. I can, however, notwithstanding, corroborate the assertion of the Controller General as to the diminution of crime. The evidence of this, however, will be laid more fully before your Lordship in the next half-yearly report, which will comprise among the documents which will accompany it, the statistics of crime for the whole of the present year.I am not saying that Sir William Denison is infallible. All I ask of the House is to weigh his statements as the statements of an able, intelligent, and experienced officer in the colony, and to put his representations fairly against the sweeping allegations in the petitions and addresses which proceed from persons who do not speak with the same sense of responsibility. I am not even arguing that all this greatly affects the real question laid before the House by the hon. Baronet. I admit that it would be for the interests of the colonists if the colony could be freed from those who have been, or are, convicts. But I believe that they are at present only suffering from the large accumulation of convicts of former years; and that the evils of which they complain do not arise at all in connexion with the small number now transported to them—those now sent hence being of a better 1203 class, and going under a new system. I believe that for many years past successive Governments have attempted to meet and to devise the most efficient measures against these evils; but as long as transportation remains a punishment which the Legislature insists upon continuing (and this large question is mixed up with the question raised by the hon. Baronet), it is quite clear that these evils cannot be altogether removed. The great object of the present Government has been the dispersion of these convicts, and that is the object which we ought always to keep in view; but we have been thwarted—and when I use the word thwarted, I complain of nobody, for I respect and sympathise with those who desire that no one tainted with crime shall be permitted to land on their shores—but we have been thwarted and impeded by the unwillingness, the natural unwillingness, of any of our colonists to receive convicts, or to co-operate with the Government in the attempt at the dispersion of convicts. If the Government had succeeded in inducing the colonists of New South Wales to receive convicts on a large scale, I think the solution of this difficult question would have been much easier than we now find it to be. At the present moment it is difficult, if not dangerous, to speak openly on the subject at all after the experience we have had of the disappointments occasioned by unexpected difficulties arising to impede hopes and intentions; but I will say that we have in contemplation means whereby we do trust to find it in our power to provide satisfactorily for the mass of convicts while to a very great extent meeting the wishes of the colonists. In Western Australia measures have been taken for sending out and employing convicts, and with good prospects of success. No doubt the number that can be received there is limited. The number already sent is only 500; but the House will find in the papers just presented to Parliament on "Convict Discipline and Transportation," the resolutions of a meeting held in Perth on the 10th of July, 1850, in which the colonists, stating that they had called for a supply of convict labour to develop the resources of the colony, which had hitherto remained quite stagnant, and which, properly developed, would render the colony one of the most flourishing of the Australian group, express their thanks to the Government for the ready compliance shown with their wishes. Very recently, too, we have 1204 had a despatch from Captain Henderson, the officer in charge of the convicts in that colony, which gives reasonable ground for hope that the experiment of sending convicts in that direction will be successful in reference to the interests of the colony generally. I believe that the works in which the convicts are engaged will be found remunerative to the colony, and that the advantages of the colonial prosperity will be speedily reflected on this country, and that if we incur a charge on account of the colony it will in the end be more than repaid to us by the ultimate results. But there is a still more important colonial district, the inhabitants of which require convicts—convicts who do not work in probationary gangs, and who are not employed under strict penal discipline, but who are under a modified system of liberty, that of the ticket of leave. This district to which I refer is Moreton Bay. By an Act of last Session, provision was made on the application of the inhabitants, for the separation of this large pastoral district from the rest of New South Wales; and the large proprietors of land and of stock there have asked the Government not to discontinue transportation, but to provide them with a supply of convicts of the improved class I have mentioned. We have information on this subject, which has reached us only within the last day or two. Newspapers of January of this year are now in our possession from that colony: and I hold in my hand two papers which usually take very different views in this matter—the Moreton Free Press, and the Moreton Bay Courier. Both these papers contain an account of a remarkable meeting, attended by the chief inhabitants of the colony, at which resolutions were passed expressive of the urgent necessity for supplying the district with convict labour. At that meeting several gentlemen, who formerly held the opinion that convicts should not be sent to the colony, came forward and avowed a change of sentiment, and stated their belief that the interests of the colony and this country might be at once promoted by a modified system of convict transportation, such as that to which I have already referred. These gentlemen said that the colony could receive at least two thousand convicts annually for a considerable time to come, and that with a due regard to the prosperity of the settlement. I do not like to indulge in any expectations or hopes which may be dis- 1205 appointed, and I have therefore contented myself with quoting these facts, as indicating the possible means of meeting some of the difficulties we have had to contend with. I am far, however, from saying that the colony of Van Diemen's Land has not some ground of complaint, and that the Government ought not to avail themselves of other outlets for convicts, and relieve Van Diemen's Land from any undue pressure; and although I feel, with Sir William Denison, that great advantages are derived by the colony from the presence of convicts under the new system, yet I sympathise with those who desire that the social and moral evils arising from the presence of these convicts should be removed. It is the desire of Government, without giving any pledge on the subject, such as the present Motion requires, to diminish transportation to the colony as far as possible, consistent with their public duty. They are prepared to give due attention to the representation from the colony of Van Diemen's Land as to the evils arising from the transport of convicts there, and will endeavour, as I have already said, to find other outlets, so that the colony may be relieved from the accumulation of any large number of comparatively undisciplined convicts. I have called your attention to the letter of a retired Indian officer, whose statement is of considerable importance; and I hope that hon. Members will read that letter, and give due weight to the views which are there expressed by an unbiassed and intelligent witness. That officer, before his visit to the colony, was led to believe that it was in the lowest state of degradation; but the result of a very careful examination on his part completely disappointed the expectations he had previously formed on the subject. It is highly necessary to the prosperity of Van Diemen's Land that its character, its social and moral position, should be properly understood, and that emigrants may not be deterred from going to the colony by exaggerated statements. I hope that the House will not by its hasty adoption of the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir William Molesworth), impose any fresh difficulties and embarrassments on the Government. It is requisite that we should act with great caution lest we should give rise to other evils greater than those which we are anxious to remove; and I trust that the House will be satisfied that it is the desire of the Government to endeavour to reconcile the interests of the co- 1206 lony with the interests of this country in dealing with this subject. I, therefore, hope that the House will not accede to the proposition of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
said, it appeared that the complaints of the reluctant population of the colony were to be disregarded; that every incentive to the emigration of its free inhabitants would still be administered by the Imperial Home Government; and that every obstacle would still he thrown in the way of free emigration from Europe thence. He listened with some degree of surprise to the parties referred to by the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey). The right hon. Baronet had appealed with confidence to the solitary case of a public meeting assembled in the squatting districts of New South Wales (for that was the character of Moreton Bay), and had asked them if, in the face of that public meeting, the House would entertain the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Sir William Molesworth). Then the right hon. Baronet had quoted the sentiments of an Indian officer, who had been only a few weeks in Van Diemen's Land, and who spoke against the testimony of all the inhabitants of the colony, all the public meetings that had been held, and all the petitions sent from the settlement to that House and the foot of the Throne. What he (Mr. Anstey) begged to ask was, the condition of Van Diemen's Land as represented by those who ought to know it best—the free people of the colony? It would be impossible, with any regard to public decorum, to enter into any details respecting it in any place which was open to the public press, or where publicity might, in any shape, be given to these details. The numerical proportion of the virtuous and criminal population of that land was, year by year, month by month, and week by week, changing to the prejudice of the former, and advantage of the latter. Free emigrants declined to go to that colony. They went elsewhere, and those free emigrants who had hitherto inhabited the colony, were emigrating by shoals to other colonies not tainted by the presence of a criminal convict population. In 1824, when Van Diemen's Land first possessed a free population, there had been every inducement held out by Government that those who went thither should be protected as much as possible from the contamination deprecated by the hon. Member (Sir William Molesworth). From 1824 to 1840 the 1207 free population had continued to increase, and the convict population decreased steadily until the proportion of convicts to free settlers had become only one half of what it had been in 1824. After the year 1840, when the number of convicts sent to the colony had increased considerably, the colonists had met and petitioned on the subject. The other penal settlements of New South Wales had been freed from the presence of convicts at the expense of Van Diemen's Land.
§ Notice taken, that Forty Member were not present; House counted; and Forty Members not being present,
§ The House was adjourned at half after Seven of the clock, till Thursday.